With its rolling terrain, Stage 11 of Vuelta 2019 had all the hallmarks of a DAY FOR THE BREAKAWAY and 14 riders duly provided the action. What a glorious day it turned out to be as local Basque rider Mikel Iturria of local Basque team Euskadi Basque Country-Murias attacked with 25km to go, holding off the chase by the skin of his gritted teeth to take a breathless victory against the odds and the lactate in his legs. The rest of the bunch rolled in some 18 minutes later and Primoz Roglic (Jumbo – Visma) remains in rojo.
Bravo the breakaway! They kept on the edge of our seats right until the very end. The group composition ebbed and flowed, breaking and reforming in a myriad of ways as the parcours twisted and turned to suit one type of rider after another.
The riders took their chances where they could. Astana’s Gorka Izagirre whittling the group down on the climbs. Remi Cavagna (Deceuninck Quick Step) fighting with everything to claw back every time he was dropped. With both Jonathan Lastra and Alex Aranburu in the group, Caja-Rural looked to be sitting pretty and when Lastra scrambled back on the last descent their chances improved. But as the kilometres ticked down, the age old problem kicked in – no one wanted to be the rider who burnt their last match.
Into that arena came one rider who was willing to give it everything for a chance at victory. A rider whose knowledge of these roads allowed him to attack at the opportune moment, pedal every corner on the descent at full pelt. One who had friends and family waiting at the finish line for him to mitigate the lactate-induced pain in his legs as he pedalled to glory. He took his chance, extended his lead quickly to around 40 seconds, held it at 11sec for an agonising amount of time, didn’t once look back as it came down to 4sec and finally had time to zip up, hold his arms aloft and sail over the line with 6sec to spare. Yes, the rest of the breakaway may feel aggrieved at the lack of co-operation, but they have no one to blame but themselves.
Rider of the Race
Hah! Of course it is Mikel Iturria!Embed from Getty Images
For his guts and determination. For the fact this is his first professional win. Because he’s a local rider in a beloved local team. For the fact that Euskadi Murias take a Vuelta victory – look at what it means to them.
I’m not crying, you are…
The breakaway was going well, but I’m a diesel and I dropped out of the group. When I went, I pretended to be dead. Then I gave it my all. At 2km to the finish I saw I had a gap but then they threw themselves at me. I didn’t look back very much because even when I’m fresh I’m slow in the sprint, and in that situation I wouldn’t have had any chance. When I was asked in the pre-race presentation which stage I wanted to win, I said this one – with my family here, I’ve always dreamed of something like this, because I’m a worker not a winner. Before the Vuelta I had come to recon the stage. I dedicate it to those who were with me.
We may not have known his name before today but he will be forever engraved in Vuelta history. Who doesn’t love a fairy tale ending?
Enjoy the Cava tonight, you brave Carrots, you made us SMILE.
Other things that made us smile
This gentlemanly show of sportsmanship
Another heartwarming moment from the mighty Cofidis, our own Journal Velo will be so proud.
When VeloVoices nicknames take a life of their own
1 Mikel Iturria (Euskadi Basque Country-Murias) 4:36:44
2 Jonathan Lastra (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA ) +0:06
3 Lawson Craddock ( EF Education First) same time
4 Damien Howson (Mitchelton-Scott) s/t
5 Francois Bidard (AG2R La Mondiale) s/t
1 Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) 36:05:09
2 Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) +1:52
3 Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana) +2:11
4 Nairo Quintana (Movistar) +3:00
5 Tadej Pogacar (UAE) +3:05
6 Carl Frederik Hagen (Lotto Soudal) +4:59
7 Rafal Majka (Bora-Hansgrohe) +5:42
8 Nicolas Edet (Cofidis) +5:49
9 Dylan Teuns (Bahrain-Merida) +6:07
10 Wilco Kelderman (Sunweb) +6:25
All the jerseys
Leader’s jersey: Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma)
Points jersey: Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma)
Climber’s jersey: Angel Madrazo (Burgos-BH)
Young Rider’s jersey: Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana)
The official Vuelta website is here; for full race review, go to cyclingnews.
Header Image: © ANDER GILLENEA/AFP/Getty Images